[Flac-dev] Idea to possibly improve flac?

Brian Willoughby brianw at sounds.wa.com
Fri Jan 7 14:22:51 PST 2011

First of all, I am not aware of any official source of FLAC files  
that provide MP3 sourced data.  I meticulously check the music I  
purchase, especially when it is 24/48 or 24/96 material, because this  
is new technology, and sometimes people get it wrong.

However, you should be aware that many modern producers use software  
to create their music, and when the software stores sound clips in  
MP3 format, what you end up with is music that sometimes looks like  
MP3.  I recently purchased a second release of an old download from  
an artist who has his material re-mastered.  Since he made such a big  
deal about the re-mastering, I took a close look at the quality.  For  
some reason, the second track looked like an MP3 source, but I'm sure  
it just has to do with the software that was used to create the music  

In other words, if you try to shut down the FLAC encoder based on an  
FFT, you might have a lot of false triggers!

I purchase a great deal of music, exclusively in FLAC format.  I  
purchase from LINN Records, Bleep.com, Warp Records, and also  
directly from artists like Nine Inch Nails who provide FLAC files.  I  
have never seen anyone provide MP3 quality.

For that matter, OggFLAC seems to be a format that has never been  
used.  Ever.  I have simply never come across a legitimate source of  
music for purchasing which used the OggFLAC format.  I have seen FLAC  
come and go and come back again.

Various online record labels started out with FLAC for bandwidth  
reasons.  Then they seemed to switch over to WAV as bandwidth became  
less of an issue, and I assume that their customers were confused by  
FLAC because of the lack of support in iTunes and other highly  
popular players.  Meanwhile, hardware such as the Sound Devices 700  
Series, the Squeezebox, and many other professional products has  
started with FLAC and stuck with it.  The sites who switched to WAV  
are now bringing back FLAC, but none of them have ever used OggFLAC.

Finally, I think that people who are not embedded firmware developers  
do not understand why the FLAC sources have stopped changing.  What  
we have here is a rare case of a professional set of sources which do  
not have bugs, and which represents a solid standard that does not  
need changing.  People are selling hardware devices in droves, and  
they cannot afford to change their firmware every time some random  
change happens in the FLAC source.  It's actually way better that  
FLAC is not changing.

Even when Apple came out with ALAC, their version of FLAC, I noticed  
that they could not consistently beat FLAC on coding speed and file  
size.  Some audio turns out smaller with ALAC, other audio turns out  
smaller with FLAC.  Overall, the average performance is identical.   
Apple hired some of the most amazing geniuses of physics to design  
ALAC, and if they can't beat the performance of FLAC in all  
situations, then what makes you think there is any reason to make a  
single change to the FLAC sources?

While I'm writing, I also want to respond to the question about how  
to change FLAC so that all of the third party tools pick up the  
change.  Well, I don't think that is possible.  Many tools run the  
command-line flac utility behind the scenes.  Others use the FLAC  
library directly.  The problem is that both of them often run with  
out of date versions of the FLAC code, so no matter which way they  
incorporate the official FLAC sources, you cannot make them update to  
your anti-MP3 version.

On that last note, I want to encourage you to experiment and have fun  
trying to create an MP3 detector that could warn users about quality  
issues.  However, I believe it is extremely unlikely that you would  
ever be successful in getting your code into the official FLAC  
sources.  This kind of change has nothing to do with the official  
FLAC format, and thus I doubt there would be any professional  
interest in changing things just for the sake of change or "newness."

Brian Willoughby
Sound Consultinf

On Jan 7, 2011, at 12:56, David Richards wrote:
> Its really sad to hear thats happening but even more sad is the fact
> that flac is becoming a very common format for music on the interweb
> whilst at the same time the development has ceased. I've found some
> severe issues with OggFLAC that essentially make it a useless format
> for streaming, no one cared.
> On Fri, Jan 7, 2011 at 3:42 PM, Jørgen Vigdal <jorgen at anion.no> wrote:
>> Due to the fact that more and more users increasingly use MP3 <  
>> 320kbps as
>> their source for encoding music, and publish it as flac files, I  
>> suggest
>> that something is done in the flac encoder to possible avoid this.
>> My idea is kinda easy/stupid, but might work;
>> Implement a function that use a FFT to check if the input has  
>> frequencies >
>> 16kHz, and informs the user that the file would not be encoded  
>> unless a
>> -force parameter is specified (or at least ask the user if he or  
>> she want to
>> do this :) )
>> Hopefully, this will reduce the number of files released on the  
>> internet,
>> re-encoded from a lossy file format. Unfortunately, many users  
>> avoid using
>> flac, because they think the encoder is lossy due to the poor  
>> sound on some
>> files released.

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